While tourism hangs by a thread during the COVID-19 crisis, there’s always hope people will return to the wilderness to connect and heal after the crisis resolves. (Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre/Facebook)

Vancouver Island wilderness tourism operator optimistic despite business dip

Christine Clarke, a Strathcona tourism operator, believes that people will want to ‘connect’ and come back to nature to ‘heal’ post COVID-19

Wilderness tourism operator, Strathcona Park Lodge and Outdoor Education Centre has seen a steep dip in business as the province battles with COVID-19.

The lodge, located five kilometres from the entrance to Strathcona Provincial park west of Campbell River, offers 160 acres of trails and myriad outdoor recreational opportunities for visitors.

Christine Clarke, executive director of the lodge, said that ever since the park shut down mid-March following provincial directions to flatten the curve, cancellations poured in right up to 2021.

“We’re experiencing a lot of uncertainty and caution at the moment,” said Clarke in sync with the challenges most tourism operators in the province are facing.

“I expect overall business will be down for a while,” Clarke said, hopeful that the coming months will bring better news if the COVID-19 situation improves.

While the property is closed, some of the staff who stay at the property have immersed themselves in projects to care for the natural environment around the property.

With April to September being high season for the lodge, Clarke said that they usually have around 70 staff on the premises around this time.

“This year we’re down to six,” said Clarke and added that they were able to hire back some of the staff with the Canadian wage subsidy and other benefits offered by the provincial and federal government.

Their sought-after Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training program, a 100-day immersive training semester which draws in registrations from all over the world, cancelled its April semester which will be rescheduled for a later date.

COVID-19 has agreeably changed the very nature of travel, but Clarke is also confident that once it is safe for travels to resume, a lot of people from the province will be back to “heal” themselves in nature.

One of the positive outcomes that can emerge out of this lockdown is how people are going to discover the importance of connecting with people they care about. This can be advantageous in the future for recreational tourism spots like the lodge.

Clarke remains optimistic that post COVID-19, places like Strathcona Park Lodge will always have a role to play in providing people with the opportunity to connect and heal.

“Nature has great healing properties,” said Clarke, about the vast stretch of wilderness where the property is located.

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